Though this may be the debut recording from Drug Cabin, the duo is anything but new. Nathan Thelen used to be the frontman for Pretty Girls Make Graves and went on to form Moonrats, and Marcus Congleton used to head up Ambulance LTD, making this a sort of indie pop supergroup. On the Drug Cabin EP, the two show their considerable experience, crafting slick (if uninspiring) bits of sunshine-y pop-rock.
There’s something immediately familiar about tracks like “Whatever Never”, something that sounds like it’s been on the radio a handful of times since the ’60s. The fazed guitar, jangling tambourine, and cheerful, lovelorn lyrics scream vintage pop, but never loud enough to disturb the calm, breezy cool. Talking about how the rivers of the beloved’s face are “where I want to stay/ until the end” is sweet and mindless, exactly the kind of thing to soundtrack a summer afternoon drive or a day sunning at the beach.
“Barracuda” is equally sunny, some tuned percussion wobbling out a progression as the two add languid, laid-back cadences over the top. The tabla-esque rhythm and filtered guitars are reminiscent of certain patches of the Beatles’ songbook, but lazy lines like “we can always be friends/ until we meet again” aren’t anything to write home about. Thelen’s smooth, rich vocals take the forefront on “One I Love”, another saccharine dose of indie pop (this time paired with acoustic guitar and plinking piano).
Though the six songs on Drug Cabin are expertly crafted, there’s very little here that would qualify as memorable. The songs all amble along at the same pace, the melodies built on long, low-slung deliveries that never crack into any deep power. Minutes after the set closes, the whole thing floats away like the pleasant cloud that it is. Like “Whatever Never”, the best song on the EP, the duo is intensely aware and entrenched in the conventions and successes of quirky, cute, pop music, but that also means that they’re unable to break away from those conventions.
Essential Tracks: “Whatever Never”